Friday, February 8, 2008

Shalom Schwarzbard of Blessed Memory who Assassinated Ukrainian pogromist Semyon Petlura in 1926

Sholom Schwartzbard
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sholom Schwartzbard (August 18, 1886, Izmail, Bessarabia, now UkraineMarch 3, 1938, Cape Town, South Africa) was a Bessarabian-born Jewish anarchist known primarily for the assassination of the Ukrainian politician Symon Petliura. He was known in Russia as Samuil Isaakovich Shvartsburd, or Shulem Shmil Shvartsburd. He wrote poetry in Yiddish under the pen name of Bal-Chaloimas (English: The Dream

Early life
Schwarzbard was born in Izmail, Bessarabia, (then part of the Russian Empire, now currently in Southern Ukraine) to the Jewish family of Isaak Schwartzbard and Haia Vainberg. After the proclamation by the Russian tsarist government for all Jews to move out of border areas, his family moved to the town of Balta, Ukraine where he grew up. In 1900, at an early age he became an apprentice to a watchmaker Israel Dreck.
During his apprenticeship he joined a Jewish Communist group known as "Funk" (Yiddish for "Spark" linked to Lenin's journal "Iskra". At this time Schwartzbard became a revolutionary[1]
Schwartzbrad participated in the Jewish self defense of Balta. As a result he spent 3 months in prison for his part in 'provoking' the Balta pogrom[2]. Fearing further arrests, Schwartzbard moved away to Chernivtsi in Bukovyna, Lviv, and then Vienna in Austria-Hungary.
In 1909 he took part in the anarchist "expropriation" (armed robbery) of a bank in Vienna, for which he was arrested and sentenced to time in a hard-labor prison. After serving 4 months of his sentence, he escaped to Budapest where he took part in an armed robbery of a restaurant. He was arrested and expelled from Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1910, at age 24, he settled in Paris and found work in a watch factory, repairing clocks and watches. On August 24, 1914 Schwartzbard and his brother enlisted in the French Foreign Legion (1914 - 1917) (363e régiment d’infanterie) and was wounded in the Battle of Carency in the Battle of the Somme. To acknowledge his courage he was awarded the Croix de guerre. Schwartzbard was wounded by a grenade blast while on patrol in March 1916. His lungs were riddled, and he was not expected to live. His left arm was virtually useless[3]
In August 1917 he was demobilized and in September traveled with his wife to Russia. On the French boat "Melbourne" he was arrested for communist agitation and was handed over to Russian authorities in Arkhangelsk. He later traveled to Petrograd where he joined and served in the Bolshevik Red Guards (1917 - 1920) joining a special battalion of the CheKa and was sent to Ukraine[4]. Schwartzbard was in charge of a special Jewish cavalry brigade with 90 men under the command of Grigory Kotovsky, a Red Army commander[5]. Supplied with Bolshevik cannon and ammunition the group Rochelle which he commanded fought for 2 years from Tiraspol to Kharkiv against the forces of Austria, Germany, Petlura and Denikin[6]
In the anarchy that transpired in the period of the Russian Civil War Schwartzbard was told that fifteen members of his family had perished in anti-semitic pogroms.
During this time Sholom Schwartzbard's brother was also expelled from France in 1919 for actively distributing communist propaganda and agitation.
In 1920 disillusioned by the willingness of his comrades to prostitute themselves and the revolution for a few rubles [7] Sholom moved back to Paris where he opened a clock-and-watch repairshop. There he was active in the French and Jewish labor movements, and in 1925 became a French citizen. He later joined an anarchist group and became acquainted with prominent anarchist activists who had emigrated from Russia and Ukraine, including such figures as Volin, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, as well as Nestor Makhno and his follower Peter Arshinov. In Paris Schwartzbard also became a member of the "Union of Ukrainian citizens .
Symon Petlura, who was head of the Directorate of the Ukrainian National Republic in 1919, had moved to Paris in 1924 and was the head of the government-in-exile of the Ukrainian People's Republic. Sholom Schwartzbard, who has lost his family in the 1919 pogroms, held Symon Petlura as responsible for them (see the discussion on Petlura' role in the pogroms). According to his autobiography, after hearing the news that Petlura has relocated to Paris, Schwartzbard became distraught and started plotting Petlura's assassination. A picture of Petlura with Józef Piłsudski published in the Encyclopedia Larousse allowed Schwartzbard to recognize him[9].
On 25 May 1926, he approached Petlura, who was walking on rue Racine not far from boulevard Saint-Michel, and asked him in Ukrainian, "Are you Mr. Petlura?" Petlura raised his cane and Schwartzbard pulled out a gun, shooting him five times, and after he fell to the pavement twice more. When the police came and asked if he had done the deed, he reportedly said, "I have killed a great assassin." [10], although other sources state that he released seven shots into Petlura with the eighth getting stuck in the revolver.
Schwartzbard was arrested and his trial began on October 18, 1927. His defense was led by Henri Torres, a renowned French jurist who had previously defended anarchists such as Buenaventura Durruti and Ernesto Bonomini and who also represented the Soviet consulate in France.
The core of Schwartzbard's defense was to attempt to show that he was avenging the deaths of victims of pogroms, whereas the prosecution (both criminal and civil) tried to show that:
(i) Petlura was not responsible for the pogroms and
(ii) Schwartzbard was a Soviet agent.
Both sides brought on many witnesses, including several historians. A notable witness for the defense was Haia Greenberg who survived the Proskurov pogroms and testified about the carnage. Several former Ukrainian officers testified for the prosecution.
After a trial lasting eight days the jury acquitted Schwarztbard.
Ukrainian outlets (emigrants at the time and the Ukrainian government after the rise of nationalism) tend to portray Schwartzbard as a Soviet agent. According to Ukrainian historian Michael Palij, a GPU agent named Mikhail Volodin came to Paris in August 1925 and met Schwartzbard, who began stalking Petlura. He had previously planned to assassinate Petlura at a gathering of Ukrainian émigrés marking Petlura's birthday but the attempt was foiled by anarchist Nestor Makhno who was also at the function.

After the trial
After his acquittal in 1928 Sholom Schwartzbard decided to immigrate to Palestine, which was under British Mandate. However, the British authorities refused him a visa. In 1937 Schwartzbard traveled to South Africa to raise money for a Yiddish Encyclopedia. He died in Cape Town on March 3, 1938. 29 years later, in accordance with his will, his remains were transported to Israel and buried in Moshav Avihayil. Several cities in Israel have streets named after him, including Jerusalem and Beersheba.
Schwartzbard is the author of numerous books in Yiddish published under the pseudonym Bal Haloymes: "Troymen un virklekhkeyt" (Dreams and Reality, Paris, 1920), "In krig mit zikh aleyn" (At War with Myself, Chicago, 1933), "Inem loyf fun yor" (Over the Year, Chicago, 1934).
Sholom Schwarzbard papers are archived at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York.[14] They were rescued during World War II and smuggled from France by the historian Zosa Szajkowski. References
Saul S. Friedman, Pogromchik: The Assassination of Simon Petlura. New York : Hart Pub, 1976
External links
PETLURA'S ASSASSIN IN HOLLYWOOD "Ukrainian Weekly" article from October 6, 1933
Samuel (Shalom) Schwartzbard page from the Daily Bleed's Anarchist Encyclopedia
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This page was last modified 16:10, 19 January 2008.
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Over the years working in New York City, I have met survivors of the Russian Civil War (1918-1921), and its numerous pogroms. As the generation that lived through that terrible period in history passes on, we should keep their memory alive. This reprint from Wikipedia is my effort to honour and perpetuate the memory of the Russian Civil war's numerous victims. I have edited reference for the sake of brevity.

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